By Jaye Gaskia
Many of us want change, in fact perhaps the overwhelming majority of us desire to have such a decisive and impactful change in our polity, in the way we are governed, in the processes of governance, in the dynamics of our national economy, and in the nature of social cohesion among our peoples.
The overwhelming majority of us are equally tired, frustrated and at our wits’ end with the way and manner that those who have and continue to govern us have governed and continue to govern us since flag independence. We have been locked into a downward spiral development wise that quite literally makes every past regime seem to be better than the current one with respect to the general well fare of our peoples and the well being of our national economy. True the economy is witnessing ‘growth’ in the GDP – even though in reality approximately 1% shrinkage of the economy is predicted for 2013; even though the rate of GDP growth at less than 7% is considerably less than the 8 – 10% annual growth rate needed to reverse the trend in poverty and lift the country into the league of 20 biggest economies.
Nonetheless these GDP growths [due largely to oil exploration and production activities] have only translated into rising and persistently high unemployment at 25% [and about 35% youth unemployment]; 68% poverty rate; gross absence and or dilapidated nature of basic infrastructures [12,000 abandoned infrastructure projects at a cost of 7.7 Trn Naira since 2000]; grossly inadequate public investment in basic social services in Health, education etc; and persistently high levels of insecurity and crime; and even more significantly industrial capacity utilization that for decades has continued to hover around the 35% mark, while as a nation also boasting one of the highest costs of doing business anywhere in the world!
In addition to this we can add the unprecedented levels of treasury looting and grand theft going on in the name of corruption, fraud and misappropriations; the mind boggling levels of organized pillage and banditry being perpetrated and perpetuated by political brigands and their cohorts and clients in businesses. So much so that in the oil sector alone over a 10 year period, this nation has lost over $100bn [that is more than N17trn- the size of three and a half federal budgets] to fraud and corruption.
With this scale of corruption and treasury looting, it is little wonder that in the midst of this grinding poverty and crushing conditions of doing business, the country boasts 8 of the top 15 richest Africans, and is also the home country of Africa’s richest man and woman! It is also why as a country we boast of some of the widest gap between the very rich and the poor; with the top 105 of wealthiest Nigerians owning 41% of national wealth, while the bottom 20% of poorest Nigerians collectively owns a meager 4% of national wealth.
It is within this context of hopelessness and alienation derived from impoverishing and stifling conditions of living and existence, that the desire for change can be properly situated.
It is therefore also within this context that one should situate the quest for change, a genuinely social transformative change, within the broader discourse and praxis [that is theory and practice] of the challenge we are confronted with in the 2015 general elections, and in particular on the road to 2015.
This brings me to the question of how we got to this terrible junction in our collective history. The problem is systemic, and driven by the collective interest more or less of a ruling political [and business] elite since independence.
It will be stupid on our part to believe and accept that the Nigerian Ruling class has been stumbling from one honest mistake to another since independence; and that the way and manner in which it has been governing this country has not been in its interest since independence; or that even if it has not governed in its own enlightened self interest, it has nonetheless not been the major if not sole beneficiary of the mis-governance and treasury looting since independence!
We are thus left with the conclusion that the current system with is prebendal clientilism, and ingrained mechanisms for tributary patronage, is one that has been perfected over the past five decades by the ruling elites to safeguard their collective selfish interest and grow their own wealth at the expense of the overwhelming majority, and through state theft!
Given this scenario it will therefore be extremely very naïve on our part to believe, indeed hope that the dismantling of this system, the salvation of this country, can be led or undertaken under the leadership of the current ruling elite and through their organized platforms.
This is because reflecting their mission in governance, the political formations and platforms organized by this ruling elites in their various factions and fractions, are mere platforms for grabbing power and distributing the spoils of office. They are in no way platforms for undertaking governance; any progress that happens is accidental, and tangential to the main focus.
This is why we need to be very careful with the euphoria around the developments within the political platforms of the ruling elites; whether the turmoil within the ruling PDP, or the flurry of activities towards a hasty merger by the opposition parties in APC! Nor should we also get carried away by the current antics of politicians of the old school, men and women who have been either in the throne room or in the corridors of power all of their adult lives! In several ways these people have been integral parts of the problems of this country since they cut their political teeth. They have been in positions of authority at different levels; and while they have usually been suddenly wiser out of power, they have all had the chance and the opportunity, several times over to actually change the course of our national development and reverse this trajectory to national collapse!
Neither our national liberation as a country, nor our social emancipation as a people, nor even the salvation of our economy can come from or under the tutelage of the current ruling elites! None of their existing and future platforms, no one single individual amongst them emerging from and flying the banner of these platforms can successfully undertake the transformation of the processes of governance in our country. Achieving this will require the dismantling of the system of patronage and clientilism; this will require committing political suicide by any ruling class element or party.
In the final analysis therefore the challenge of social transformation can only be confronted by the organization and mobilization of new and radically different political actors under new and radically different political platforms.
Of course several Nigerians who are becoming newly politically agitated and who desperately seek change have been confronted by the challenge of self doubt, the absence of self confidence, that inspires fear, and suggests the impossibility of such a mission and vision. We ask can we do it? Can we really overcome these obstacles, kick out these bandits, begin the process of clearing and cleaning the Augean stables, and set about laying the foundations for a great and prosperous nation, with a thriving and prosperous people?
We are thus paralyzed by the fear implanted in us through our own self doubt. But look at us; inspite of the adversity that surrounds us, we are builders, successful builders and leaders in our various fields and among our peers. How old were these old school politrickcians when they started cutting their political teeth?
On the road to 2015, as we organize and mobilize the political movement and platform to Take Back Nigeria, our greatest obstacle will be this self imposed fear, this self doubt! But we are the future of this country, we know it, and we should embrace the challenge!
These political platforms of the ruling elites in their different and several incarnations are merely conduit pipes for grabbing power and gaining access to public treasury; Our task is to organise and build new radical platforms, strong enough to confront and displace them; and visionary enough to lead the process of our becoming a great and prosperous nation and people.
Look at Greece, look at Italy; new political movements organised by new political actors, have swept unto the national stage: The Radical Left in Greece, the Five Star Movement in Italy! If this is possible in those places, it is equally possible here.
Now therefore let us go out unto the field to work, to plough and to sow; to weed and to tend; to organize and to build; for the time of harvest will soon be upon us!